Objective. To determine whether research supports the advisability of early discharge of healthy newborns and mothers.
Methods. Critical review of English-language literature cited in the Index Medicus or the International Nursing Index.
Findings. No adequately designed studies have examined discharge before 48 hours after delivery without additional postdischarge services. Few studies have examined the consequences of recommending a clinic visit within the first days after discharge; studies of this practice among low-income populations found high no-show rates. Some small studies suggest that early discharge is likely to be safe for selected populations at low psychosocial, socioeconomic, and medical risk, with careful antenatal screening and preparation and multiple postpartum home visits. Some studies suggested adverse outcomes associated with early discharge even with early follow-up.
Conclusions. Published research provides little knowledge of the consequences of short maternal/newborn hospital stays or varying postdischarge practices for the general population. The studies that have concluded that early discharge was safe were applied under restricted circumstances or were too small to detect clinically significant effects on important outcomes. Further research is needed to inform clinical and reimbursement policy on health services in the first days of life and parenting. Rigorous studies of sufficient size are needed to examine the impact of different hospital stays and different postdischarge practices on a range of outcomes for mothers and newborns in diverse populations and settings. Given a priori concerns, decisions on neonatal/obstetric discharge planning should be made cautiously.
- Received May 4, 1995.
- Accepted July 6, 1995.
- Copyright © 1995 by the American Academy of Pediatrics